“The Glory of God”, J.I. Packer expounds on Jonathan Edwards treatise (The End for which God Created the World)

The Glory of God

J.I.Packer expounds on Jonathan Edwards’ treatise on The Glory of God

Edwards inherited a dispute among the learned: Was God’s goal in creation his own glory, as Reformed theology maintained, or man’s happiness, as Arminians and Deists thought? In his Dissertation on the End for Which God Created the World, posthumously published, Edwards resolved this question with startling brilliance. As his son, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., put it:

It was said that, as God is a benevolent being . . . he could not but form creatures for the purpose of making them happy. Many passages of Scripture were quoted in support of this opinion. On the other hand, numerous and very explicit declarations of Scripture were produced to prove that God made all things for his own glory. Mr. Edwards was the first, who clearly showed, that both these were the ultimate end of the creation . . . and that they are really one and the same thing. (Sereno E. Dwight, “Memoirs,” in Works, 1:cxcii)

Edwards clinched his case on this by surveying the biblical use of the word “glory” (Hebrew, kabod; Greek, LXX and NT, doxa). Having stated correctly that etymologically kabod implies “weight, greatness, abundance” and in use often conveys the thought of “God in fullness,” Edwards traces the term thus:

Sometimes it is used to signify what is internal, inherent, or in the possession of a person [i.e., glory that belongs to someone]: and sometimes for emanation, exhibition, or communication of this internal glory [i.e., glory that appears to someone]: and sometimes for the knowledge, or sense of these [communications], in those to whom the exhibition or communication is made [i.e., glory that is seen, or discerned, by someone]; or an expression of this knowledge, sense, or effect [i.e., glory that is given to someone, by praise and thanks in joy and love]. (Edwards, “The End for Which God Created the World,” in Works, 1:116)

And the conclusion he offers — on the basis of both biblical texts that speak of glory and of glorifying in these four distinct though connected ways and also analytical argument surrounding this exegesis — is that God’s internal and intrinsic glory consists of his knowledge (omniscience with wisdom) plus his holiness (spontaneous virtuous love, linked with hatred of sin) plus his joy (supreme endless happiness);

and that his glory (wise, holy, happy love) flows out from him, like water from a fountain, in loving spontaneity (grace), first in creation and then in redemption, both of which are so set forth to us so as to prompt praise; and that in our responsive, Spirit-led glorifying of God, God glorifies and satisfies himself, achieving that which was his purpose from the start.

The chief end of man, as the famous first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism memorably puts it, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God so made us that in praising, thanking, loving, and serving him, we find our own supreme happiness and enjoyment of God in a way that otherwise we would not and could not do. We reach our highest enjoyment of God in and by glorifying him, and we glorify him supremely in and by enjoying him. In fact, we enjoy him most when we glorify him most, and vice versa. And God’s single-yet-complex end, now in redemption as it was in creation, is his own happiness and joy in and through ours.

His great goal here and now is to glorify himself through glorifying, and being glorified by, rational human beings who out of their fallenness come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus the emanation (outflow) of divine glory in the form of creative and redemptive action results in a remanation (returning flow) of glory to God in the form of celebratory devotion. And so God’s goal for himself (Father, Son, and Spirit, the “they” who are “he” within the Triune unity), the goal that includes his goal for all Christian humankind, is achieved by means of a singly unitary process, which itself is ongoing and unending.

“We reach our highest enjoyment of God in and by glorifying him, and we glorify him supremely in and by enjoying him.”

The unimaginable endlessness of this reciprocal sequencing that is in truth the end for which God created the world can only be indicated formulaically and analogically (to use a couple of non-Edwardsean terms). This is done for us in a normative way in Revelation 21, and C.S. Lewis most tellingly did it at the close of his final Narnia story, The Last Battle, where the children have been brought through a rail crash into the real Narnia that is to be their home forever. The key sentences are these:

Then Aslan [the Christ-like lion] turned to them and said:

“You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be . . . all of you are (as you used to call it in the Shadowlands) dead. The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

. . . We can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before. (Lewis, The Last Battle[Penguin, 1964], 165)

This picks up exactly, in mythical-parabolic terms, the point that Edwards, in his more prosaic way, was concerned to make. Amy Plantinga Pauw capsules it as follows:

Because “heaven is a progressive state,” the heavenly joy of the saints, and even of the triune God, will forever continue to increase. . . . Saints can look forward to an unending expansion of their knowledge and love of God, as their capacities are stretched by what they receive . . . there is no intrinsic limit to their joy in heaven. . . .

As the saints continue to increase in knowledge and love of God, God receives more and more glory. This heavenly reciprocity will never cease, because the glory God deserves is infinite, and the capacity of the saints to perceive God’s glory and praise him for it is ever increasing. (Pauw, “The Supreme Harmony of All”: The Trinitarian Theology of Jonathan Edwards[Eerdmans, 2002], 180-181)

Here, finally, is how Edwards himself, in his rather more severe and abstract manner, sums the matter up. (“The creature” in what follows is the believer.)

And though the emanation of God’s fulness, intended in the creation, is to the creature as its object; and though the creature is the subject of the fulness communicated, which is the creature’s good; yet it does not necessarily follow that, even in doing so, God did not make himself his end. It comes to the same thing.

God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself, is not a divided respect; but both are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself. . . .

The more happiness the greater union. . . . And as the happiness will be increasing to eternity, the union will become more and more strict [i.e., closely bound] and perfect; nearer and more like to that between God the Father and the Son; who are so united, that their interest is perfectly one. . . .

Let the most perfect union with God be represented by something at an infinite height above us; and the eternally increasing union of the saints with God, by something that is ascending constantly towards that infinite height . . . and that is to continue thus to move to all eternity. (Edwards, “The End for Which God Created the World,” 120)

The two-way street of this unceasing process, says Edwards, embodies and expresses the true end for which God created the world: namely, the endless advancement of his glory, in union with us, through the endless advancement of ours, in union with him.

Those who have in any measure tasted the refreshment and joy of heart that flow from faith in, friendship with, and worship of the holy Three (or shall I say the holy One, or One-in-Three) will latch on to Edwards’s thinking here as a complete answer to any who fancy that the Christian heaven would be static and dull, and will themselves look forward to the awaiting glory with ever-growing eagerness.

Resource: J.I. Packer

from the book:

“A God-Entranced Vision of All Things”

The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards by John Piper and Justin Tayor

“Feasting on God’s Glory”, from L.Willows (soaking in Goodness, Joy, Blessing, God’s Love)

Recently, I described to a friend that I discovered another way to soak in God’s Glory in a season when I needed to feel near to Him. We are taught to fast and pray in the scripture as a way of gaining a closer relationship to God. It can bring about a spiritual breakthrough and causes the heart to be drawn towards Him in worship. I discovered a joyful way of celebrating His Presence by Feasting in His Goodness afterwards. It takes the form of Listening and Receiving His word and teaching generously and joyously from sermons, podcasts and online sources that give delight to my heart. I call it the Feast after the Fast. Sometimes I have done it on and off for weeks at a time. It is also a wonderful way of influencing the heart to create a posture of closeness to God and to loosen a pattern that gazes at anything but Him.

You can form your own list of resources for “Feasting on God’s Goodness and Glory” but I will offer one for you here to try. It is also nice to add music that inspires your spirit to the list. In a “Feasting the Heart” season I will use resources with me as I go about my day including scripture – life does not need to stop. (add recent sermons and podcast from your church; I love to add my own; Alexandria Presbyterian Church) I add what inspires me, sermons and discussions from teachers of reputation. You can listen while moving, walking, driving, resting, be creative. I have even slept during feasting and prayed that the words soaked into me by God’s Spirit! It is wonderful to learn, listen, let your heart stay soft and enjoy. (LW)

Here are some suggesting for podcasts and resources to Feast on; enjoy creating your own!

Tim Keller on Mark 15:33-47 , YouTube

Tim Keller, “Laboring for a God who fights for us”

Tim Keller; Sermons Podcast by Gospel in Life

Knowing and Doing Podcast, from the C.S. Lewis Institute

The Audio Library of the C.S. Lewis Institute

The Gospel Coalition Podcasts

See Jesus.net “Love Moves Towards People” with Paul Miller (Global Discipling)

See Jesus.net “Love Under Pressure”, Paul Miller (Global Discipling)

See Jesus.net “Conversation with Pilates, Jesus the King”, Paul Miller (Global Discipling)

See Jesus.net “Becoming Human Again”, Paul Miller (Global Discipling)

The best Christian worship and praise songs of 2021

Mercy and Goodness in singing together (Josh Sherman)

Bless the Lord Oh my Soul

“Love in the Balance of Heaven and Earth”, a worship poem from L.Willows (Glory of God, Majesty, Near to God)

Love in the Balance of Heaven and Earth

In the mountain tops, I answered,
Near the white cloud mist’s hold.
Where shoulders of green bear gentle earth mothers.
They call up horizons, they reach to sky’s fold.
Bearing weight all, caring with nests filled with gold.

Sweetened with sunlight shed full upon
Mountain fellows, their faces, turned by lives worn.
Here on their shoulders, high in the sky,
dipped in the blue is a Majesty’s cry.

Love in the balance of heaven and earth
dreams reach to thee as the clouds fall with mirth.
All into shoulders of gentle green peaks
like mounds of earth mothers that fall, quake, birth, seek.

Soft are the bellows, on sky mounds that run
lovingly towards home near to the sun.
Angels paint rainbows in tomorrow’s new day
from the mountaintop’s glory, in horizons we pray.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Colossians 1:16
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Psalm 95:3-5
For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.